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The UK can help right an “appalling historical injustice” by recognising the Armenian genocide, a Conservative former minister has said.
Tim Loughton, the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, put forward in the House of Commons a bill that would require the UK Government to formally recognise the genocide of the Armenians in the period 1915 to 1923 and to establish an annual commemoration to the victims of the Armenian genocide.
Mr Loughton, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Armenia, claimed that despite the fact that no fewer than 31 countries now officially recognise the Armenian genocide, the UK has still “failed to follow suit”.
He insisted a memorandum from the Foreign Office back in 1999 “let the cat out of the bag” when it said: “Given the importance of our relationship, political, strategic and commercial with Turkey, recognising the genocide would provide no practical benefit to the UK.”
Mr Loughton insisted “glossing over the uncomfortable inconveniences of past history is not the basis for strong and constructive relationships.”
He told MPs: “We cannot legitimately call out and stand up to genocide still going on in the 21st century by sidelining and neglecting the genocides of the 20th century.
“Refusing to recognise the Armenian Genocide risk conveying a dangerous message of impunity that a crime unpunished is a crime encouraged or downplayed.”
He noted the Bill is strongly supported by members from at least five parties across the House, before adding: “We have the opportunity to do our best to help right an appalling historical injustice and as a leading advocate of human rights on the international stage, send out a clear message that we recognise genocide wherever and whenever it has been committed, as the worst crime against humanity and we will call it helped defend the victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
In April, US president Joe Biden formally recognised the systematic killings and deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 20th century as “genocide”.
Mr Biden used a term for the atrocities that his White House predecessors had avoided for decades amid concerns over alienating Turkey.
The Turkish foreign ministry said in response at the time: “We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the US regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups.”
Mr Loughton’s Armenian Genocide Recognition Bill was listed for a second reading on March 18 2022, but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.